Montoya's move cuts Schumacher down to size

Magic moments that made 2003 memorable
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The Independent Online

Nürburgring, Germany Sunday, 29 June

Juan Pablo Montoya has never been intimidated by Michael Schumacher, and at the European Grand Prix at the Nürburgring he underlined that. For me, this was one of the defining moments of the 2003 season, proof that in his hands Williams-BMW and Michelin were equal to Schumacher, Ferrari and Bridgestone.

Montoya had been catching Schumacher in second place, and by lap 43 they were side-by-side on the run down to the Dunlop curve. The Colombian had the advantage by the corner, but as Schumacher ran up the kerb he slid wide and hit Montoya's Williams as it snatched the place. Montoya continued, but Schumacher spun and sat stranded as the Ferrari's rear wheels spun helplessly in the gravel. When three marshals finally rescued him, he was way behind his winning brother as Montoya backed a Williams-BMW one-two.

Ferrari's technical director, Ross Brawn, loudly declaimed Montoya immediately afterwards, accusing him of lacking class. Montoya said: "Michael was quick on the straights but in the corners he was very slow. He was on the inside and I was on the outside. I thought I gave him plenty of room."

There was a stewards' enquiry, but no action was taken and even Schumacher believed that Montoya had given him sufficient room. Williams-BMW's technical director, Patrick Head, was pleased. "If they had taken action, it would effectively have been a declaration that overtaking is no longer allowed in Formula One," he declared. A fortnight later at the French GP a sheepish Brawn admitted: "Hmm, I suppose I was a little precipitate."

What did it all prove? That Montoya had guts, Schumacher was fallible, and that the sport still had its head on straight in this politically correct age, and would still give drivers a mandate to race.